Tsukemono / Hakusai no Shiozuke / Japanese Pickled Cabbage

Picture of Tsukemono / Hakusai no Shiozuke / Japanese Pickled Cabbage
Tsukemono (say "TSKEH-mohnoh" never "TSOOkeh-mohnoh"... just think of the "su" part as being whispered instead of spoken) means "pickled things" and includes a great variety of Japanese pickle, both fruit and vegetable types. This Instructable is about one of the most basic, called "Hakusai no Shiozuke" or "Napa Cabbage Salt Pickle".

Once you feel comfortable doing this, you can try endless variations, with seaweed, scallions, peppers, garlic, fish sauce or broth... in many ways, depending on how you dress it up, this can be very similar to Korean Kimchi.

There is no vinegar added.. like all naturally fermented pickles, the varying sourness is from natural vinegar that gets made as part of the fermentation process, so while you can simply put salt and vinegar on cabbage, not only would that be "cheating" but it would cheat you of the full flavor and priobiotic benefits to the gut and immune system, that naturally fermented original versions offer.

Once you see how simple this is, you can have it all the time, and it is good with rice, alone as a snack, added to soup after the soup is done, on sandwiches like sauerkraut, or however you like it.
This is quick to make and must also be used more quickly, than slower fermented things like kimchi. But it's easy enough that there is no need to make more than you can use in a short time.
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Step 1: Tools and Materials

Picture of Tools and Materials
All you need is Napa cabbage, salt, and a knife.

Oh, and a makeshift "tsukemonoki" if, like most of us, you don't have access to a traditional Japanese pickling crock. Use any container that is big enough, and lets you weight the top down. I used a 2-quart square food-safe plastic freezer storage container, with a 1-quart one full of water as the weight. You could use a large nonreactive bowl with a plate on top weighted by a brick. Or if you have a tsukemonoki, tell me where I can get one too.
SiK12 months ago

Hi. This is probably random, but I wanted to know how to make gari. I think it's absolutely delicious and have tried to google a recipe on how to make it, but haven't been successful. Any tips would be appreciated. Thank you.

SiK12 months ago

Hi. This is probably random, but I wanted to know how to make gari. I think it's absolutely delicious and have tried to google a recipe on how to make it, but haven't been successful. Any tips would be appreciated. Thank you.

shujina1 year ago
I bought mine (tsukenmonoki) in Japan many years ago. However, that was one of the recipes my ex forgot to teach me. Thanks for the instructable. I will see if I can create some instrucables for some of the other things my ex used to make and teach me. Her family owned the "Kado" restaurant on the Ginza in Tokyo and a Sushiya near Tachikawa AB, Japan. I lived in Japan for 27 years during my childhood and adulthood. I ate a completely Japanese diet for many years and traditional Japanese food is one thing I so miss here in the US. Hakusai is one of them. I almost enjoyed it more than the Hire Katsu or sukiyaki and the salty or pickled taste was my favorite part.
jayala101 year ago
hi :), why not try organically grown nappa cabbage :)
moxieme5 years ago
Thanks for the great instructions! I've been looking at other oshinko recipes and they add ingredients I knew my mother never used. I'm on day 2 on fermentation. I just used cabbage and carrots, but mine is too salty...can I rinse it?
megmaine (author)  moxieme5 years ago
You are welcome! _ I tried to keep it basic.

As for rinsing when it tastes too salty? You can, but be aware that that may cause it to take longer to ferment properly since you will be washing out much of the active organisms... it might set it back a bit, and if you remove that plus a little too much of the salt, it could just plain spoil. It is something to experiment with.

If it is not too salty to ferment, you could also try rinsing each portion briefly before using, or else adding a small amount of water to your container, to let the salt level soak out a bit, while the juices continue to sour, so you won't lost the flavor. then you can use the extra juice in soups or whatnot.

The best part of home crafted fermentation is that you can play with it, see what happens, and seek your own taste of perfection.

You'll have to taste each batch to see if it's "too" salty.

If you find that it is, just rinse out the portion you plan to eat.

When I rinse mine, I leave it in a strainer to stand for about a half hour to let it drain and dry out a bit before serving.

Typically, I use about 1/4 cup of regular pickling salt to 2 quarts of dry chopped veggies.
miss_eriko5 years ago
Good job on the instructable! I just started a Nukamiso pot yesterday and want to give it at least a couple of days before I post my instructable.... in case it just turns in to a big sticky fruit fly farm. (Nukamiso is Japanese pickling done in a bed of rice bran or wheat bran.) Have you ever done this type of pickling? My mom made pickles the was that you showed and they were delicious but I don't remember her making nuka pickles. Though, back in the '70's she wouldn't have had access to the rice bran where we lived. It was a huge big deal to try to even get tofu! Peas, Eriko
megmaine (author)  miss_eriko5 years ago
Thank you! I would like to try making nuka pickles soon as well. Seems once the nuka is cultured, it perpetuates itself, much like sourdough. Keep us posted on how that goes! Amazing how fermentation seems like such an esoteric thing until you actually get in and try it, and then it becomes clear why every culture has its fermented traditions: easy, frugal, and healthful!
Thank you for this Instructable! I remember my mom making this when I was young, she used a 5 gallon plastic bucket with a dinner plate and a rock. She would put a dried chili pepper in the jar when she moved it to the fridge. This reminded me of how I much I used to enjoy it, so I bought a Napa cabbage on the way home from work tonight, now to find something to make it in!
megmaine (author)  hardwarejunkie5 years ago
That's great! Isn't it nice to rediscover some of the lost arts of our families? A whole generation or more has not learned to make simple health-giving foods like Tsukemono (or Sauerkraut, or other ferments once practiced by nearly every family in a given culture), and we are only now learning how vital those foods, with their probiotic cultures that occur naturally, are to our health. Good for you! So what else did your mom make "back in the day"?
gregr5 years ago
I found a pickle press (Tsukemono) for sale on Amazon...